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El Chapo calls Manhattan federal jail conditions ‘torture,’ wants charges dropped, court filings say

Alleged Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín

Alleged Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán is escorted by federal agents in January 2017. Guzmán's solitary confinement in a Manhattan federal jail is harming his mental health, his attorneys said in a court filing on Monday, March 13, 2017. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has asked a federal judge in Brooklyn to dismiss charges against him because he is being held in solitary-confinement prison conditions that amount to “torture” and that Mexico did not agree to as part of his extradition.

The alleged Sinaloa cartel leader’s latest attack on conditions at the Manhattan federal jail where he has been held since January came in a Thursday night filing that said the U.S. illegally flew him to face charges in New York after Mexico extradited him for cases in Texas and California.

“The Mexican Government’s Consent did not contemplate that Mr. Guzman would be subject to long-term solitary confinement tantamount to torture,” Guzman’s lawyers said. “Had Mexico been informed of this harsh confinement, it almost certainly would not have agreed to Mr. Guzman’s detention and prosecution on the current charges in this District.”

Guzman, 60, was flown to Long Island to face charges in Brooklyn in January, and is accused of using murder, kidnappings and savage violence to run a billion-dollar international cocaine trafficking ring. U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan hopes to begin his trial next spring.

Prosecutors didn’t comment on the latest filing, but have previously told Cogan that Guzman’s extradition was legal and that tight jail security — restricting even family visits and contact visits with his lawyers — was needed because Guzman twice escaped from prisons in Mexico.

The motion seeks dismissal on the basis of the “rule of specialties” — a legal rule that requires strict conformity in extradition case with the terms under which one country agrees to send a prisoner to another.

Guzman’s lawyers say that on Jan. 19, in rapid succession, a Mexican court rejected his appeal of extradition to Texas and California, he was put on a plane, while airborne the U.S. submitted a request to divert him to New York, it was approved by Mexico’s foreign ministry and attorney general, and the plane was diverted to MacArthur Airport on Long Island.

The sudden shift while Guzman “was 30,000 feet in the air, flying farther and farther away from San Diego and El Paso” was illegal, the motion says, because the U.S. lied to Mexico about the strength of its case, and Mexico didn’t agree to the onerous conditions under which Guzman is now held.

Among other complaints, Guzman said he gets no fresh air and no human contact — even his wife has been prohibited from visiting. Earlier this year, he asked for Amnesty International to visit, but Cogan nixed the idea.

Guzman lawyers Michael Schneider and Michele Gelernt conceded that the extradition challenge is a long shot.

They said a recent decision by the federal appeals court in New York allows only the extraditing state — Mexico — to raise a challenge, not the person extradited. While Cogan appears to be bound by that, they said, the motion will preserve Guzman’s rights if the Supreme Court disagrees.


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